Ghanaian President John Mahama referenced the killing of an unarmed African-American man by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri that led to protests and a violent response from law enforcement in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly Thursday.
Mahama’s speech focused on the “need to effect change in the areas of human rights and social justice, in education and health administration.” He referred to the situation in Ferguson as well as other incidents where African-American men were killed by police as examples of things that might make people fear the world was regressing rather than progressing.
“Reports of police brutality in the United States against an unarmed black man takes me back to 1999 when 23-year old Guinean-born Amadou Diallo was shot 19 times by four New York City police officers. Or to 1991 when Rodney King was brutally beaten by five Los Angeles police officers,” said Mahama. “Both of those incidents caused a tremendous public outcry, as has this year’s shooting to death of 18-year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, with the singular message of ‘no justice, no peace.'”
In addition to the police shootings in the US, Mahama cited “beheadings” in the Middle East and the many civilian deaths caused by Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip this summer as potential signs the world is moving backwards. However, after referencing these situations, Mahama hit an optimistic note.
“Do such events indicate an outright regression? Does the uncomfortable familiarity of some current world events mean that despite the changes so many individuals and organisations have worked to achieve, we have made little or no progress?” Mahama asked. “I would like to believe this is not so. I would like to believe these events of recent times are merely setbacks that will motivate us to find more sustainable solutions, slight reversals on that sinuous path toward true progress.”
Mahama went on to discuss the ebola epidemic in West Africa, terrorism, the “global recession,” and “the growing problem of inequality,” among other challenges facing the world. He said these threats might make it harder for people to affect change but encouraged “those of us who envision a just and peaceful world” not to “yield.”
“In the words of one of the greatest teachers and leaders of nonviolence, Mahatma Gandhi, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world,'” said Mahama.
Mahama isn’t the only leader who referenced Ferguson in his address to the General Assembly. US President Barack Obama’s speech acknowledged the country’s critics might point to the incidents there as a moment when America “failed to live up to our ideals.”
Read Mahama’s full speech here.
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